Reflections on 2019 – and looking ahead to 2020

By Dr. Stephanie Wood-Garnett

ISA President


Friends and colleagues,

As another year has closed, the team at ISA feels grateful for the opportunity to collaborate daily with educators and to engage with them in their various roles as teachers, leaders, and support professionals.

We are honored to be called upon to co-plan, coach, mentor, problem-solve, and strategize with our partners. We are inspired by the quality of instruction, strength of relationships, and positive climates in schools that are removing barriers to student success, promoting student agency, and providing access to deeper learning for students who may enter school with unmet needs.

We are awed by the courage and commitment of the educators, students, and communities in our districts and schools as we work together to achieve better outcomes.

In 2019, ISA saw an incredibly busy year where we achieved the following:

  • Expanded Core Team. ISA added several new leaders to our team who bring a variety of school and district experiences, including Dr. Ebony Green (equity services), Dr. Keith Look (district services), and Dr. Sam Rikoon (research partner). These organizational changes better position ISA to meet the needs of our partners.
  • Formalized District-Level Supports for Increasing Access to Equity and Opportunity for Students. This year, ISA helped district- and school-level leaders reflect on the impact of personal identity in how one leads, teaches, supports, and experiences school. In this, ISA considered how equity is interwoven into the policies, practices, and procedures that, in turn, impact student achievement and social emotional development. ISA’s equity audits, equity-focused professional development, and equity action planning with educators in Maryland, New Jersey, and New York prove that this work is vital, and we look forward to building on it in 2020.
  • Co-Developed Resources and Tools with Teachers to Support Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD). With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, ISA continued our support for secondary schools to integrate non-cognitive skills into the academic core, providing strategic planning and professional learning opportunities for administrators and teachers on SEAD. ISA witnessed first-hand the powerful shift that occurs when students and teachers engage in daily metacognitive practice, and these efforts around SEAD have increased student engagement and perseverance, strengthened students’ ability to successfully complete challenging work, nurtured students’ growth mindset, and, in some cases, positively impacted state test scores.
  • Reviewed and Updated Our Research Agenda. This year, ISA developed summaries of the research literature in support of ISA’s seven principles, conducted an analysis of academic outcomes information from more than 25 ISA schools, and developed and administered a survey of teacher perspectives on ISA’s coaching services. We are in the process of preparing a report on results.
  • Hosted a Series of Equity Seminars. ISA hosted impactful seminars about equity in Washington, DC and Princeton, New Jersey. We convened district and school representatives as well as education thought leaders to discuss equity and to identify practical approaches for immediate action. Evaluation results confirmed the value of the events: 100 percent of participants agreed with the statement, “Today’s event deepened my understanding of equity,” and 100 percent of participants agreed with the statement, “I learned something today that I can take back to my school, district, or organization and implement in the next two weeks.”

2020 will also be an exciting year for ISA as we celebrate our 30th anniversary. Our team is planning a meaningful (and fun) event in which we will bring together colleagues, friends, and partners to reflect on our journey, our mission, and our impact over the years.

Now, none of these accomplishments could have happened if not for the professionals who support ISA’s work. Our central office team; our organizational partner, the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching; and our coaches are all incredible, hard-working, thoughtful, and inventive. They always put first the needs of the educators and, ultimately, this nation’s students.

How can you join us in our work in 2020? You can follow us on Twitter or sign up for our monthly newsletter. If you’re looking for a partner in your own 2020 school or district improvement work, send us an e-mail. We look forward to hearing from you—and thank you again for your support of and interest in our work.

All our best,

Team ISA